How to type special characters on your iPhone 4

September 16, 2010

Sometimes it would be nice to type a non-English word or phrase on your iPhone 4, say in an email, and to make it look a bit more classy by using the right foreign characters. Here’s how to do that!

A lot of non-English words have made it into regular usage in the English language. They are often spelled using a slightly different character set than we are used to, and those special characters don’t seem to appear on the iPhone keyboard anywhere unless you change the nationality of your keyboard entirely. So what do we do if we want to type latté? There is an easy answer for that, but Apple has not talked about it much.

Under many of the keys on the iPhone keyboard, there are foreign language equivalents lurking, ready to come out and help you to feel a bit more urbane. All you have to do to access and use those characters is “hold down” the appropriate key on the iPhone keyboard. Instead of tapping on the “E” key, for example, touch that key and hold it for just a second and voilà, an entire set of specially accented characters will appear, as shown in the graphic at the upper left of this column.

This also works on some punctuation keys. For example, pressing and holding the “?” key will get you the upside down question mark used in Spanish. Experiment a little with the other keys and see what you can find. As an example, holding the dollar sign key down brings up a number of different foreign currency symbols. This could actually be fun…

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